Smt. K. K. Shailaja Teacher, Hon’ble Minister for Health, Social Justice, Women and Child Development,

Adv. V.K. Prasanth, Mayor, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation,

Shri V.S. Sivakumar, Member of Legislative Assembly,

Shri Biju Prabhakar IAS, Special Secretary, Social Justice, Women and Child Development,

Smt. Gita Siddartha, President, Indian Council for Child Welfare,

Adv. Deepak S.P., General Secretary, Kerala State Council for Child Welfare,

Shri Bharat S. Naik Secretary General, Indian Council for Child Welfare,

Kumari Sneha S., Child President,

Priyapetta Kochu Koottukare,

Sahodaree Sahodaranmare

Ellavarkkum Ente Namaskaram.

I am very happy to inaugurate the 37th National level Learn to Live Together Camp organized by Indian Council for Child Welfare [ICCW]to inculcate in our children, a sense of solidarity, oneness and national unity. 

Let me at the outset, compliment the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare for grabbing the opportunity to host this year's camp, which has the presence of over 200 children from all our States and Union Territories.  Ever since its inception in 1959, the Kerala State Council for Child Welfarehas been effectively formulating schemes and setting up institutions for the welfare of children, implementing the charter of National Child Welfare Council and encouraging meaningful legislation on child welfare.

As Patron of the Council, I have been keenly observing the Council's measures to improve the living conditions of children, and to accord educational opportunities to the children of the weaker sections of the society. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the International Children's Film Festival organized by the Council. It was an impressive event, attended by nearly 7000 children. The Council's projects like Amma Thottil, Sarana Baalyametc., have already won the appreciation of society. On the whole, the activities of the Council have been with the noble aim of making Kerala, a model in child friendly measures.

As we all know, children are the greatest asset of any nation, since today's children are the citizens of tomorrow.  Our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had compared children to the buds in a garden and believed that they should be nurtured carefully and lovingly so that they blossom as well groomed individuals who would lead our nation in the coming years. A great Lebanese poet advises us to give children our love, but not our thoughts because children have their own thoughts. As elders, we have a social obligation to provide our children opportunities and avenues to broaden their thinking and vision and ensure their overall development as future citizens. I am certain that this Learn to Live Together Campis one such opportunityfor our children.

I am informed that this Camp has a cross section of the child population of India, since it has the participation of children from various backgrounds and physical conditions. I would request all the children participating in this Camp to make this a true learning experience. This is an opportunity for our children to see the beauty of India's diversity and to understand its power to unite us as a nation. The interactions and cultural programmes arranged in the camp should strengthen the friendship among the participants from different States and make them think about their common cultural heritage.  In short, the insights which every child receives through such interactions would help him or her to develop a broader vision about India as a nation.  It is on the strength of such a vision that the children should grow as World citizens.

As a person who served the Judiciary, I have always felt that such camps should also remind our children about their role as members of the society. Our children should know about the legal provisions which have established certain rights for children.

Today, Education is a fundamental right of every child. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 obligates the State to provide education to children in the age group of 6-14 years. In Kerala, we have strengthened the foundations of education by upgrading thousands of our classrooms as smart classrooms. We also have the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 which has set the age for marriage of boys at 21 years and that of girls at 18 years. In addition, we have laws against child labour and strict provisions to protect children from   sexual assault and harassment.

It is not enough that children are made aware of their rights; society has the obligation to implement such laws properly. It is through the implementation of these rights that we help to reduce the inequalities among children and the disparities in their education, health and well being.  We also must encourage our education system to focus on enlightening children about their privileges in society so that they grow up being aware of society's duty towards them. A child thus empowered today, is a promise of the prosperity of our future.

I must specifically mention the need for knowledge about the rights of the differently abled children. Our children should grow up by knowing the importance of ensuring barrier free facilities for the differently abled.  I am happy that this Camp has endeavoured to ensure their presence.  Inclusion must be a way of life for every child.

Along with Rights, children should also be aware of their duties as citizens. Such awareness can come only through meaningful social interactions which would give them a clear view of the life around them.  Unfortunately, we live in an age which is affected by two major issues : one is the unhealthy competition for scoring high marks, which makes children insensitive to the pulse of society, and the second is the addiction to electronic devices which affect children in many ways. I have a feeling that these issues are hampering the process of social interactions among our children.

Social gatherings like this Camp are an answer to the rising levels of insensitivity among children. It is in such gatherings that they come face to face with the life of children in other parts of our country. These interactions also foster better understanding about people of other regions among our children. Coming to the issue of children's addiction to the digital gadgets, I would suggest that we use the possibilities of these gadgets more to educate children. We could even think of interactive Mobile Apps that would educate and sensitize children on issues like gender equality, fundamental rights and duties and environmental protection.

I hope that the Learn to Live Together Camp would succeed in empowering our children with a broader view about the culture of our land so that the destiny of India would be safe in their hands.

I once again greet all the children taking part in this programme and wish them all success in life and a very happy stay in Kerala.

I also compliment the Indian Council for Child Welfare [ICCW] New Delhi for guiding and leading the activities related to child welfare in India. The Kerala State Council for Child Welfare also deserves praise for organizing this function and the camp in a befitting manner.

Ellaavarkkum Ente Aashamsakal


Jai Hind